Opening with the ramshackle yet skankable clatter of Theme From The Age of Reason before turning into burbling, spoken word murmurings. There’s an enjoyably disparate style that’s both winningly abstract and humourous.
Big Trev the first tune to hang around is a spiky, scruffy indie-pop number like The Bluetones covering The Hives or vice versa. It’s after this track that we return to the grumpy monologue of earlier, slipping in and out like running between a mid-90s gig and a Stephen Berkoff play. This performance recurs across the entire LP giving it some sort of peculiar structure, as if we’re floating from the thoughts rattling away in our narrator’s head and then back out into the hectic insanity of the world around him.
Mustn’t Grumble begins like a very earlier outtake of trying to figure out what Los Campesinos!‘s You, Me, Dancing! might sound like before collapsing into a slobbery swagger with hastily spluttered lyrics about, as the liner notes aptly puts it, ‘acquaintances who can be bothersome’. Meanwhile the double-bill of Perky I & II has a really tasty White Lines-style bass line in its second half, whilst the sweet female vocals that pop up recall Beck‘s Beercan.
It’s followed by some ranting about the state of expensive bars, followed ironically by a track called Do The Dance that under other circumstances would perhaps be emblazoned with neon lights saying ‘The Single’. It has a sound like the clatter of horse hooves running through it and dry lyrics that unenthusiastically (intentionally) urge the listener to ‘Do the dance they dance at death.’
When the wah-wah accordian begins to announce the next lump of narration it feels somewhat laboured rather than part of an ever more apparent whole, though it does feature the best line on the record so far; ‘Have I made even a little tiny nick in existence? I mean, well, what mark have I actually left, well, I suppose my name’s in the list of all the people who use the library.’
Afterwards wry indie-pop track Dinosaur sung with a near-Toploader twang proves to the album’s weakest moment, a jazzy cacophony that is a somewhat lifeless assault of noise lacking a strong lyrical or melodic hook like the earlier tracks; though the bass line is nice and chunky. Following along after yet more narration is Piglet, dippily sweet with its ever repeated refrain of ‘I like you, I like you I do.’ Though the inclusion of the baby noises is somewhat unnerving! But then again aside from David Bowie‘s Magic Dance I can’t think of a track with baby noises in that actually works.
It’s around this point that the inclusion of the narration becomes really baffling, kind of like Outkast‘s obsession with including skits between songs, it just doesn’t always seem necessary to punctuate every track with these pieces of narrative that feel at times detrimental to the preceding or ensuing song. For example, Mackenzie is initially a musical punchline to the narration, and it zips by so fast that once you’re willing to give it the time of day (it’s kind of like a hi-speed Dodgy skiffle) the next bit of dialogue has started up and the way it heralds the album’s title track feels so similar to previous introductions that you’re not really sure which is the main thrust of the record. It’s almost like listening to two albums at once, playing one track off of the first, then one track off the other and so on.
Maybe I’m missing the point of the narration, but if it was as nestled into the journey of the songs as well as say Prince‘s The Rainbow Children then it would act as a complement to the music and vice versa, you’d welcome the progression of both pieces, but here they just feel so disparate that they end up rubbing one another up the wrong way. The penultimate title track is a lively conclusion with the band seemingly singing about themselves collectively in the third person!? A self-deprecating punky number before a crackling and jaunty re-tread called Return to the Theme from The Age of Reason played on piano, that almost seems to emphasise the somewhat befuddled tongue-in-cheek flavour of this record.
Sarandon are clearly a band having a lot of fun, their songs are quick dizzy rushes, but the record as a whole is uncertain and unsteady, like the drunkard who provides a bit of guest narration on track 13, it’s peppered with enjoyable moments but there’s a push and pull with how the record is organised that sometimes gives the listener a harsh slap in the chops just as they’re beginning to get comfy. Inconsistent, yes, but, at least always interesting.